Skip to main content

Full text of "A story about a real man"

See other formats

198                                                                                 B- POLEVOI
had killed twenty-five Germans somewhere on the
Southern Front, bringing his score up to two hundred.
A letter arrived from Gvozdev. He did not, of course,
say where he was, or what he was doing, but wrote that
he' had returned to the outfit of his former commander,
Pavel Alexeyevich Rotmistrov, that he was satisfied
with life, that there were lots of cherries where he
was and all the boys were overeating themselves with
them, and asked Alexei to drop a line to Anyuta
upon receipt of this letter. He had written to her too,
he said, but did not know whether his letters reached
These two communications were enough to tell a
military man that the storm would break somewhere in
the South. It goes without saying that Alexei wrote to
Anyuta, and also sent Gvozdev the professor's advice
to grow a beard; but he knew that Gvozdev was in that
state of feverish anticipation of battle which causes such
anxiety and yet such joy to every soldier, and so would
have no time to think about a beard, or even, perhaps,
about Anyuta.
Another happy event occurred in ward forty-two. A
decree was published conferring on Major Pavel Ivano-
vich Struchkov the title of Hero of the Soviet Union; but
even this joyful news failed to cheer the major up for
long. He fell into the dumps again and cursed his shat-
tered kneecaps, which tied him to his bed in a hectic
time like this. There was another reason for his dejection
which he tried to conceal, but which Alexei discovered
in the most unexpected manner. Concentrating his mind
entirely on one object—to learn to walk—Heresyev now
scarcely noticed what was going on around him. He lived
strictly in accordance with a daily schedule he had drawn
up for himself: for three hours every day—one in the
morning, one at midday and one in the evening—he
practised walking in the corridor on his artificial feet.
At first the patients in the other wards were annoyed by
the figure in the blue gown passing by their open doors
with the regularity of a pendulum and by the creaking
of the leather limbs that echoed down the corridor; but
later they grew so accustomed to this that they could not
conceive of certain parts of the day without this figure